Portuguese island of Madeira attracts Americans with direct Airbus A321LR service and new hotels

Signers of the Declaration of Independence toast the newly born United States on July 4e, 1776, with Madeira wine. Now Portugal has returned the favor with the United States’ very first non-stop flight to Madeira Island off North Africa.

While about one million Americans visited Portugal before COVID 2019, only 10,000 visited Madeira, a four-season destination popular with Europeans. Portugal is betting Azores Airlines’ new flight, along with existing service from Lisbon, will bring North American visitors to taste the food, wine, upscale hotels, casino and atmosphere relaxed Madeira.

Madeira, roughly equidistant from Portugal and Morocco, was “discovered” in 1419, more than 70 years before Columbus’ voyage to the Americas. The subtropical island has 24 different microclimates.

The island was soon planted with wheat, vines and sugar cane, perfect for winemaking. Madeira wine is “fortified” (like port, sherry, marsala and vermouth) with additional alcohol (often cognac). The extra alcohol acted as a preservative on long journeys like the two-month navigation to the New World.

But now, a new Azores Airlines Airbus A32LR flies the 3,140 miles from New York (JFK) to the Madeira Islands (FNC) nonstop in 6.5 hours. This is the first non-stop flight ever to fly between a major gateway to the United States such as New York and Madeira.

Why visit Madeira? The location of the island off the coast of North Africa offers a mild climate and sea with pleasant temperatures all year round. In addition to its ocean views, the island offers mountains, valleys and cliffs covered by one of the largest laurel forests in the world. This vegetation of Laurissilva, classified Natural Heritage of Humanity by Unesco, shelters unique plants and animals, including many local species such as the Madeira pigeon.

Madeira offers sophisticated spas, historical monuments and great hotels and restaurants, where you can taste local and international cuisine and award-winning wines. There are also fun, traditional activities like the ‘toboggan ride’ on traditional wicker basket sleds, pushed by muscular locals wearing straw boater hats.

One of the first hotel chains in Madeira is Savoy. The Savoy Palace, a property of Leading Hotels of the World, tells the story of Madeira’s traditions, landscape and culture through its striking design. Another popular feature is the 3,100 square meter destination spa, inspired by Madeira’s Laurissilva Forest. The spa features a dreamlike pool landscape with lagoons, cascading waterfalls, and waterfalls. There are 11 treatment rooms for massages, facials and relaxation treatments. The spa also has Turkish baths, halotherapy room, sensory showers, ice fountain, sauna, jacuzzi and Himalayan salt room.

The Savoy Palace recently unveiled a Presidential Suite with panoramic ocean views. This is one of the 48 suites that offer a “boutique hotel within the hotel” with the Guest Premium experience. This includes an airport reception and your own butler and personal assistant. Suite clients also benefit from “direct and exclusive access” to the Jacarandá Lounge & Club, the restaurant and the private terrace on the 16th and 17th.e floors, plus free treats and in-room amenities.

For the youngest who may not need some pampering, the all-new Savoy Signatures NEXT is a short walk from Madiera Old Town with its nightlife, restaurants and bars overlooking the harbor. NEXT offers swimmers direct access to the sea as well as a rooftop pool.

For those whose work always travels with them, NEXT “is fully adapted to the growing number of digital nomads with an inspiring co-working space integrated into the hotel’s public spaces”. When it’s time to unplug, NEXT’s spa offers forest therapy in addition to a sauna, treatment rooms, ice fountain, and gym. NEXT’s Recharge Restaurant offers Hawaiian-inspired cuisine.

Tourism is coming back to Portugal. One of the country’s most popular destinations, the Algarve Coast Region, reported that hotel occupancy rates in November 2021 more than tripled (225% growth) compared to November 2020.

While tourism is still down from 2019, one of the reasons for its continued recovery is Portugal’s vaccination rate, one of the highest in Europe. According to the Portuguese health authorities and the regional authorities of the Azores and Madeira, 88.8% of the Portuguese population is fully vaccinated and 19.4% have already received a vaccine booster. Portugal started vaccinating 5-11 year olds on December 13.

Yet the CDC recently added Portugal to its list of Tier 4 countries that Americans are urged not to travel to due to high levels of the coronavirus. Many other countries are on the CDC list including Italy, UK, France, Russia, Germany, Denmark, Jordan and South Africa,

“Portugal is one of the most vaccinated countries in the world! says Luís Araújo, President of Visit Portugal. “We believe that it is possible to travel safely in our country, not only thanks to the effective and rapidly progressing vaccination programs, but also because Portugal has an effective risk management approach, both for them. locals and for our long-awaited travelers. ” Madeira, for example, has several free test sites.

Araújo added, “We have implemented health and safety protocols such as the Clean & Safe seal in over 22,000 facilities and trained over 80,000 professionals to add another layer of trust and transparency, affirming the Portugal as one of the most competitive, secure and sustainable countries. destinations around the world.

Madeira is a year-round destination for Europeans, but little-known to Americans, despite having won the Best Island Destination in Europe at the World Travel Awards for the past eight years. With easier access than ever, Portugal is hoping Madeira Island will appeal as much to Americans today as its namesake wine did to the founding fathers of the United States.